The first ever USC Blockchain Hackathon taught us IOTA

Kaushal Saraf
Jun 24, 2019 · 5 min read

Being a Computer Science student, I have always been excited about hackathons and build projects that excite and challenge me at the same time. More than that, you get to work with a brilliant set of folks! You do not end up learning just from the technology or the product but learn about teamwork and managing distribution of responsibility and the path to success is via efficient communication and collaboration.

The first-ever “Blockathon” (Blockchain Hackathon) was taking place at University of Southern California and being a learner in the space, it was the most exciting opportunity we got in a long time to apply our skills and theories to build. The organizers invited IOTA to be a part of the blockathon and empowered the participants to build on their fairly new developer platform and push transactions on their Tangle (It is not a single chain of blocks).

Leveraging the SDK was fairly simple but the challenge was understanding the architecture, validation process, governance and the flow of transactions. They have created a novel concept based on a traditional Directed Acyclic Graph called the Tangle.

The formation of an idea is never so easy as it is key to consider the skills, expertise and interests within the team. After several hours of deliberation, we drilled down to two ideas that we wanted to focus on. Out of common love for sports, we planned on using IoT devices and sensors tracking movement and other parameters of famous sports personalities and stream the data through a platform already built by IOTA. The buyer pays for that data for any kinds of the purpose of training or makes a consumer based application on top of it.

In this way, we empower sports legends like Kobe Bryant, Sachin Tendulkar to share their expertise with the world and get fairly compensated for it too. The MVP would have been focused on Basketball shooting and stream that data to buyers. The challenging part of this idea was the domain of sports which none of us was very coherent in and therefore becoming an uphill task to establish a strong set of data points to share.

Then comes the idea that we went on to implement. We, as students or working professionals, have to deal with staying with strangers or random people when living away from family and one of the toughest conversations become when asking someone to pay up their end of the bills or how should some of the bills get split. Those conversations not only end up being rough but end up creating a sour patch between the best friendships people end up making while living with new people. We decided to tackle and alleviate the pain that comes with splitting bills for shared places like those.

DOMUM

Domum stands for House in Latin.

Whenever a person moves into a house, they pay monthly rent and utility charges. The paid money is put into a smart contract which breaks away the utilities from the payment. The smart contracts divide the utilities at a certain percentage, around 70% goes towards the person’s room wallet and remaining 30% towards the common area wallets. Each room wallet negotiates with all the smart devices in the room and pays the devices for the utilities like electricity consumed by them. The common area wallet does the same for the smart devices in the common area. This way there is a direct relationship between the usage and the payment made by a room.

The MVP was a NodeJS Server to initiate all transactions with IOTA, Raspberry Pi with a couple of LEDs which charge the room’s wallet directly for the electricity consumed and goes off if the room’s wallet gets empty. Once reloaded the wallet through an Android Application, the LED comes back up again. All the transactions were created on the IOTA Tangle as it works really smoothly for micro-payments.

Here is the Devpost link to check out the project details

Not only did we realize the potential that this project has but also the challenges it brings along with it when trying to implement practically.

  1. We realize one of the biggest hurdles is the truth factor of the source of information. The physical devices and sensors should not have tampered as Blockchain can only ensure what information has already been put on the chain and not validate whether that information is coming from an authentic source or not.
  2. The other challenge would be the downstream services that are electricity boards and institutions who are responsible to provide utility would need to integrate payments coming through digital automated channels instead of manual channels.

We thank the IOTA team that came to USC Blockathon and helped us understand about IOTA and get hands-on with their platform. We went on to secure the first position in the Blockathon.

Thanks for making it all the way! Hope you liked our small initiative to try to tackle a problem that we face every single day throughout the world. Feel free to share your ideas or thoughts through comments, would love to discuss!

Kaushal Saraf

Written by

Blockchain is the future | Blockchain@USC. I try to sleep but all i want to do is learn.

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